The 10 Best Albums of 2015

2015 was an amazing year in music. Streaming became an even bigger part of our every day lives, skirmishes were had, and records weren't just shattered - they were absolutely demolished. And all the while, artists and bands - new and old - from all genres and countries, were putting out their best work to date.

So, in no particular order, here are my top 10 albums from 2015 


LOGIC - THE INCREDIBLE TRUE STORY

Logic is a 25 year old American Rapper, and The Incredible True Story is his second studio LP. If I'm being honest, this was the first album of his that I had heard, so I had little to no expectations going in, and I think that's why it resonated so well with me -  I had nothing to compare it to. The Incredible True Story was the natural progression to his debut, Under Pressure, as he took what he had learned and launched himself into space with the conceptual album. While not the most complex of lyricists, Logic was able to produce an album that has the feel of a full, complete body of work - one embedded with nuances, themes and a larger, interwoven framework that nobody could digest in one listen.


DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE - KINTSUGI

Kintsugi is the eigth full length LP by Death Cab for Cutie, and serves as a cathartic send-off for long time guitarist and producer of the band, Chris Walla. The album as a whole is the maturing of the band, which, if you remember the terrible emo haircuts and attitudes of your mid-aughts 16 year old self, is a good thing. The arrangements, along with Gibbard's vocals, allow the album to sound both familiar and new simultaneously. The songs themselves do a terrific job of moving the listener by perfectly balancing Gibbard's personal experiences with more generalized concepts reflective of painfully failed relationships, self-deception, and looking ahead without losing touch with what's past. While the second half of the record is definitely weaker than the opening tracks, Kintsugi provides sonically strong material as a whole.


BEACH HOUSE - DEPRESSION CHERRY

Part of the joy that comes from listening to Beach House is how the duo seems to always be able to craft the perfect daydreaming Soundtrack. Depression Cherry, silly name aside, is no different. The album is full of lush synth and guitars, and the vocals give it a sightly eerie, etheral sound. Everything is just slightly off-kilter, but in a way that only Beach House can master. It's as if they want to take you on a soaring journey, with the only promise being an unspecified destination. Depression Cherry is one of the few albums from this year that left me wanting even more.


Dance Gavin Dance - Instant Gratification

Back in 2012, the former Tides of Man singer, Tillian Person, took over as the clean vocalist for Dance Gavin Dance. in 2013, they dropped their fifth studio album, Acceptance Speech, and the band soared back into being one of my favourites, and that album became one of my most played to this date. This year, Dance Gavin Dance released their second album, Instant Gratification, with Tillian once again at the helm. While I absolutely love this album, it's certainly no Acceptance Speech. That's not a bad thing though. Dance Gavin Dance continues to be an anomoly in the sea of generic post-hardcore, and this album has the same old DGD flair, but with a slightly different flavour. This album as a whole is the culmination of the band's growth over the years, and delivers a variety of well-crafted songs.


IBEYI - IBEYI

Ibeyi is a French-Cuban musical duo consisting of twin sisters, Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz. The duo sings in both English and Yoruba, and after hearing them on NPR's All Songs Considered podcast, I immediately fell in love with them. As Ibeyi, the duo mix traditional Latin rhythms with subtle handclaps, piano and electronics, creating a warm, intoxicating sound that is smart, and emotionally open. Of all the albums that I had listened to this year, this one stood out the most because of how welcomingly different it was. 


KENDRICK LAMAR - TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY

The very first song I ever heard by Kendrick Lamar was Hol' Up, from his debut album, Section 80. Ever since then, I've been hooked. Not since the early days of Lupe Fiasco has a rapper grabbed my attention in the way that Lamar has, and he shows no signs of stopping. To Pimp a Butterfly is his third album, and since he doesn't like to do easy, he gave us something far chewier to sink our teeth into. There's just no way to get everything out of this album in one listen, and he knows that as he continues to think outloud, becoming the unofficial anthem for young activists across America. What I most enjoyed about this album in particular is just how different it sounds from his previous endeavours, showing us that he's willing to experiment with new sounds, and sonically speaking, this album is solid from start to finish.


KAMASI WASHINGTON - THE EPIC

What happens when you throw a jazz genius in a room with a 32 member orchestra and 20 vocalists? You get Kamasi Washington's three-disc, three hour long epic that's appropriately called, The Epic. It's an album grounded entirely in the groove, even as the tunes become sweepingly spacey. There's not a whole lot to say about this album other than the fact that you absolutely NEED to listen to it.


Tame Impala - Currents

With Currents, Tame Impala has taken their signature psychedlic-rock sound in a brand new direction. There's this unexpected beauty and tenderness to this while thing, from the crisp, hip-hop accenting on the drums to the full-bodied bass and vivd synths. It's not the sit-up and listen kind of record that you've come to expect from the band, but with the new electro-pop sounds, it's just as accomplished as their previous efforts. It's always refreshing to see artists and bands explore new sounds and directions, while maintaining the very essence that makes them who they are, and Currents is no exception.


BADBADNOTGOOD / GHOSTFACE KILLAH - SOUR SOUL

The prospect of hearing a Wu-Tang veteran, Ghostface Killah, rap over moody live-band jazz sounded too good to be true. And for the most part, it is. Throughout this album with the Toronto jazz-funk trio, BADBADNOTGOOD, Ghostface Killah is consistently outshone by the guest vocalists, who bring to the table strong writing. That, however, doesn't take away from the strength of this album, but rather, the strength of Ghostface himself. Old Habits die hard with Ghostface it seems, as he's still pandering to Marvel geeks with tracks like Ray Gun, but at this point, you pretty much know what you're getting when it comes to Killah. Still, Sour Soul is an impressive album, and one that I kept coming back to throughout the year.


NEON INDIAN - VEGA INTL. Night School

As with every Neon Indian album, VEGA INTL. Night School can feel chaotic, effusive, and overwhelming at times. However, much like the bright lights of the city that provided much of the inspiration for this album, it's equal parts dazzling as well. VEGA is Palomo's idealistic version of NYC, presented as a sort of audio film narrative. It's his riff on the idea of a night school - stay up past midnight and you'll see how the city unfolds before you, and how human nature really works. It's a beautiful album, reminding me of the Bladerunner score. VEGA INTL. Night School goes down like a reimagined debut album, and that's entirely because it introduces a newly carefree, natueae focused Neon Indian.


BONUS: TAYLOR SWIFT - 1989

Okay, yes, 1989 is technically a 2014 release that came out 14 months ago. Even then, throughout 2015, Taylor Swift's first real non-country pop album was absolutely inescapable in 2015. The album has had three singles released so far in 2015, with a fourth slated to come out on December 31st. And not for nothing, 1989 is an incredibly catchy album. Almost every single song is an earworm that will burrow it's way deep inside your head, refusing to get out.

The Dream of a Better Battery

Let's cut right to the chase. Phones are getting more and more amazing each and every year. However, there is one crucial part of each and every one of those phones that hasn't improved, or rather, has improved, but hasn't kept up with the inflation in screen pixels and the RAM that's crammed into your tiny super computer. That's your battery. 

The solution is easy, right? Just increase the milliamps. Make a thicker phone that can accomodate a bigger battery, because after all, more milliamps means more time using the phone. Well, yes and no. Yes, if phones were stuck in the 2011-2013 era when screens with 1080p displays were seen as over the top and uncessary, and 2GBs of RAM was unheard of. No, because we're in 2015 with screens that have 4 times as many pixels as a 1080p panel has and devices with upwards of 4GBS of RAM and octacore processors.

Phone batteries aren't getting any better, and the solution, better batteries, seems like a pipe dream at this point. So, what's the solution?

In an ideal world, it would mean that manufacturers would invest more of their resources into making their phones drain less power. But, with large, incredibly bright displays and apps that need to run in the background all the time, it's unlikely that better battery technology will come along anytime soon. Even the dream of phones coming with 3,000mAh+ batteries as the standard, instead of the sub-3,000mAh we have right now, is far off. Most of the 2015 flagship devices, i.e. the Galaxy S6, the Note 5, and the iPhone 6S/6S+, all had their battery capacities decrease in size from their predecessors. In the case of Samsung, it was their desire to choose form over function, and in Apple's, it was to cram even more tech in an already impossibly small form factor.

So with better battery technology a dream of the future, we're left with having more chargers in more places. Currently, I myself have chargers in every room in my house, in my car, and one at my work, as well as three portable power packs that I keep in my bag at all times. The problem with this solution is that often, I neglect to look at my battery levels, and my phone is dead before I know it. Having these power chargers everywhere is great, because I can just plug my device in, but it's not perfect. That would require me having to constantly monitor my battery levels to know when I should plug it in, and having wires everywhere is a hassle. That, and wires fail all the time, so it can quickly become expensive, replacing charging cables all of the time.

Having chargers everywhere is at best a stop-gap. Being able to charge mid-day should be able to get most people through the rest of their evening just fine, but that is at best a stop gap. What would be even better than that is a single, universal, wireless charging standard. No more fumbling with micro-USB, USB Type-C, or Lightning connectors, all of which aren't cheap nor universal at this moment in time. Just place your phone down, and boom, it's charging. But, as I write this, there isn't even a wireless charging standard that's universal. Some phones have Qi, others have Powermat, or WiPower, or Rezence. It's a minefield, because everyone wants to be the dominant player in this new field.

What I want to see is yes, better battery tech, which means more time and investment spent into making batteries better overall and more power efficient, but a single universal standard to appear. Something that would be everywhere, so that just the act of setting down your phone would charge it. IKEA has something along these lines, but it's not universal, and it requires you to place your device on a specific part of the surface it's on to properly charge it.

But that will never happen, because batteries will always take the backseat to better displays - things that are tangible and that you can get immediate results and gratification from. For the foreseeable future, the bigger a battery gets, the more you're likely to use your phone. So really, there is only one solution right now to get the best battery life possible from your device: don't use it.

For The Sake of Change: an HTC Story Part 2

Back in March of this year, wrote a fairly lengthy post that took a different position on the then newly released HTC One M9. Riding high from the praise of the 2013 and 2014 predecessors, HTC did little to change their newest flagship. I thought that this was an okay move, given the history of companies like Sony, Motorola, and Apple, all three of which do little to change the hardware aesthetics if it's proven to work for them. I thought that this was a good thing.

I was absolutely wrong. 

Since the One M9 was released, HTC has changed CEOs, releasing Peter Chou, who is still active in the process of making HTC's flagship devices, and bringing in Cher Wang, one of HTC co-founders. And since the One M9 was released, little has changed from the days of 2010.

Before HTC introduced the original One flagship phone in 2011, the One X, they had a similar approach as Samsung: flood the market with devices that would cover every possible price range. The corporate culture at HTC has always been about looking only at the short term success, instead of how releasing so many devices that differ only slightly from one another dilutes their brand identity and reduces their long term support. 

What HTC did in 2012 with the One X was remarkable. It seemed like the company had really turned itself around, by acknowledging the confusion around their devices and releasing and focusing on only one flagship device. However, in a matter of months, they released the One S, One V, One SV, One VX, and One X+, and devolved to carrier-specific releases like the HTC One X+ VZW 360°noscope 4GLTE BlazeIt revision 4.20 (2012) with Beats™ by Dre. It harkened back to the awful days of the Samsung Galaxy SII, and that was not a good sign. 

Fast forward to 2015, and not a whole lot has changed. HTC is still releasing different varients on the One M9 in the forms of the One ME9, the E9, and the M9+. I significantly doubt that HTC is making any profit on any of these devices, and are instead wasting R&D resources.

Whoever thought that this monstrosity was okay needs to be fired.

Whoever thought that this monstrosity was okay needs to be fired.

If HTC wants to see any success again, they need to, and I hate using this term, but they need to double down on really simplifying their product lineup. One high end phablet, one high end "mini". One midrange, and one low-end. Think Motorola, but instead have it come out of Taiwan. It doesn't end at the phones though. HTC needs to embrace what's part of their brand identity and loyalty, and what's not. By having effectively four devices, they need to support all of them in a timely manner. This means ditching Sense UI. 

Between 2008-2010, when Windows Phone (Windows Mobile at the time) and Android were butt-ugly and needed UI refinements to even begin to ccompare to iOS, Sense UI made, heh, sense. It was big and beautiful, and stood out. Today, with Google directly focusing on the UI & UX of Android, Sense UI (and TouchWiz, and whatever the crap LG puts on their devices) needs to go. Again, look at Motorola. They realized quickly that their skins weren't making for an enjoyable experience, and because of that, people weren't buying their phones. Sense UI is incredible bulky, and adds an unnecessary amount of weight to an otherwise slick & gorgeous interface. HTC needs to drop it, and do what Motorola is doing: stock Android with small, but meaningful software add-ons. No bloatware, which is what Sense has effectively become. 

I sincerely don't believe that there is any brand loyalty for Sense, and I doubt that anyone is buying an HTC device because of Sense. While Sense may not be nearly as offensive as TouchWiz, it still gets in the way more than Stock Android ever could. Blinkfeed is a poor man's Flipboard, and Zoe is a useless combination of Vine and .gifs that I have not seen used since it was first introduced in 2013 with the One M8. Sense is no more than a gimmick now, much like the Ultrapixel camera was.

What has become a part of HTC's brand identity is the front facing Boomsound speakers. It's a part of the overall aesthetic, and despite having a low end device, HTV should include it. If you buy an HTC, you get the best in class phone speakers. Not everyone wants or needs external speakers, and why need them anyway if you have an HTC with Boomsound? That right there is their first ad. 

When this render for the HTC One M9 Hima was leaked, everyone instantly fell in love. I know I did. I was hoping so hard that this would be the end product. It was the natural evolution of the One's hardware. Boomsound speakers that borrowed the design from the Nexus 9, a larger, higher pixel front facing camera, a reduced bezel size, with the HTC logo moved to the bottom of the glass panel, leaving more space for a larger screen in the same size footprint as the M8. This is what HTC should have gone with, because it would have been the stand out success that the M9 we currently have is not.

It's not just that the Sense UI is incredibly heavy, but by getting rid of it and adopting a Stock Android approach, HTC could effectively guarantee software updates for a minimum of two years. Right now, HTC devices are still on older versions of Lollipop, and will likely only get Android M one year after it is released, right around when Android N is announced. Sense only slows down the update process, as HTC needs to waste precious resources that they simply do not have on taking Android and customizing every aspect of it when it's just not needed any more. 

By using Stock Android, they could also help to improve the fragmented state of Android Security. Google was able to push out a software update for the recent Stage fright exploit, where as companies like Samsung & HTC have promised an update but with no timelines. By having so many hardware and software variants. OEMs are leaving large portions of their userbase vulnerable to attack, and that is just simply not okay in 2015. 

More than anything though, HTC needs to improve and invest in their marketing. Since 2011, the Taiwanese company's shares have fallen 95%, so much so that HTC's stock is worth less than the cash that they have on hand. In other words, to investors, HTC is absolutely worthless, and that is not a good position to be in. Looking at HTC's stock above, you can see that on August 7th, it crashed a full 10%, so much so that all trading needed to be halted. That didn't stop it from continuing to it's free fall three days later.

It's clear that when you look at the hard numbers, HTC as a whole lacks any clear and cohesive vision. They're unable to compete in the high end brackets against the likes of Apple and Samsung, the mid-range is dominated by Motorola & LG, and the low end by Chinese OEMs like Meizu, Huawei and Xiaomi. HTC is being squeezed out on all sides, and there is only one way that they can save themselves from themselves.

Marketing.

HTC needs to make customers love their brand again, and it ties into how they market their devices. The company needs to stop releasing different varients of their flagship worldwide, and have one consistent message. The flagship that you get in North America is the same as the flagship that you will get in China and Europe. One device to rule them all, which, incidentally, was the whole idea of the One series that HTC launched back in 2012. This goes back to my earlier point. Instead of wasting money on ad campaigns featuring Robert Downey Jr. that make absolutely no sense, HTC needs to focus on ad campaigns that actually work. They need to emulate Samsung & Apple, using tried and true methods. Campaigns that actually tell you what the phone is about and makes you want to purchase it. Campaigns that bring back that sense of brand loyalty, that plays off of Google's, Be Together, Not The Same, and says not everyone wants a Galaxy. That you can be different while still being meaningful. 

It just doesn't end with the campaigns though. HTC needs to also make a compelling phone. They need to iterate on the hardware, and not release three versions of the same device over three years as was the case with the M7, M8, and M9. HTC already has the hardware portion down. After the success of the M7 in 2013, every other OEM jumped on the premium feeling bandwagon, a path that HTC paved. Even the iPhone 6 borrowed heavily from the One M8. However, HTC needs to focus on the software side more than ever. They need to get rid of Sense, and embrace Stock Android. They need to promise support for a longer period of time and timely updates like Motorola. 

While HTC may also have other products in its portfolio, like the Vive VR headset and the Re action cam, and the still yet to be released smartwatch, those won't save HTC from completely collapsing in on itself. If there's one lesson that they should take from Microsoft and Nokia, it's that releasing 18 different midrange devices with slightly differing specs is not the way to win the hearts and minds of your consumers. 

It won't happen overnight, but the corporate culture at HTC definitely needs to change. One device, released every 12-18 months in each tier, high, mid, and low, will help bring the Taiwanese company back from the brink. In the end, HTC needs to understand that they are no longer the same company that they were in 2011. A little less trial and error will help them, because in the end, a novel idea won't save you. In fact, often times, it's not worth it.

Google Alphabet

Google, never happy with a slow new day, was able to create a brand new company with one press release that's so big that it actually owns Google itself.

Confused? You're not the only one, so let me try and break this down.

Earlier today, Larry Page issued a press release. He and Sergey Brin have always believed that Google could be more than a conventional company. They went from search, into video, maps, becoming an MVNO, and the world's largest mobile OS. But more recently, they started diving into different areas that would have more of a profound impact on us as a whole if successful. Projects like Loon, providing Internet via weather balloons, and Calico, a human life longevity program. Google began to stretch itself thin, and thus Alphabet was born.

Alphabet is a unique name (and ahead of Apple in the phone directory), but it works. In his Press release, Page said,

"We also like that it means alpha‑bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for! I should add that we are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products—the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands."

So this effectively means that Alphabet is not a mere rebranding. You don't be using Alphabet Mail or Alphabet Maps anytime soon, since the whole point of Alphabet is to allow the subsidiary companies to run and develop themselves however they see fit. 

So, with Page and Brin effectively leaving the daily operations of Google's core products, who's in charge? That's where Sundar Pichai, the man behind the Android & Chrome teams, comes in. Pichai, over the last few months, has been overseeing the core operations of the newly slimmed down Google, focusing on continuing providing the best services through Gmail, Maps, YouTube etc. And while we don't exactly know which pieces of Google will land up in Alphabet's Alphabet of companies (such as Google Auto or Project Fi) we do know that Pichai will be leading a slimmed down, more focused Google.

So, here's the A-Z of Alphabet:

  • Alphabet (the main company)
  • B
  • Calico (focused on longevity)
  • Capital (investment)
  • D
  • E
  • Fiber
  • Google (now led by Sundar Pichai and includes search, ads, maps, apps, YouTube, and Android)
  • H
  • I
  • J
  • K
  • Life Sciences ("that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens")
  • M
  • Nest
  • O
  • P
  • Q
  • R
  • S
  • T
  • U
  • Ventures (investment)
  • W
  • X lab ("which incubates new efforts like Wing, our drone delivery effort")
  • Y
  • Z
"We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant."

If you're wondering why Google is on that list, it's because Google is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Alphabet, and will be replaced by Alphabet Inc. as the publicly traded entity, however the two classes of shares that the company offers will continue to be traded as GOOG and GOOGL on Nasdaq.

While this move certainly caught Wall Street and the entire tech world by surprise (I woke up from a nap thinking I had slept straight through to April 1st, 2016), it formalizes a shift in Google that has been apparent for some time now. Both Brin and Page have been more focused on sections of Google like X Lab and Calico, and rightly so. It's the natural evolution of the two that brought us something like Google in the first place, and the natural progression for a man like Sundar Pichai, who ran the entire I/O 15 Keynote this year. While this seems like major news, and in a sense it is, we likely won't see the impact of this shift for years. Even then, the impact will likely have a minor impact on the core businesses and services that Google itself provides.

There's no real way to see how this will play out, but I think that with a slimmed down, more focused Google, Pichai will be able to achieve some incredible things, while Brin and Page can continue to work on their moonshot projects.

We won't have a full list available of Alphabet's subsidiaries until the Q4 financials have been filed. As of writing this, Alphabet has broken the cardinal rule if starting a new company: make sure you own the URL. Currently they own neither @alphabet not alphabet.com, but I suppose it's only a matter of time until they do.


You can read Larry Page's Alphabet press release here.

Apple WWDC 2015

Today was Apple's 26th Annual World Wide Developer's Conference, or WWDC, for short. In a similar fashion to Google's I/O conference, Apple tends to use this platform to update its fans and core developers on what to expect in the coming year, from new products and services to refreshing existing categories. 

So, let's start breaking all of the news from today's event down.

OS X 10.11 EL CAPITAN

Source: The Next Web

Source: The Next Web

As soon as Craig Federighi, Apple's senior VP of software engineering, took to the stage, he unveiled the name for the newest version of OS X - El Capitan. It's more so an iterative update from Yosemite, similar to Snow Leopard from Leopard, rather than a massive change from Mavericks to Yosemite. 10.11 is all about performance updates, making things feel faster and smarter. 

Spotlight, the universal search inside of OS X, got a long needed update in the form of contextual searches. You can now type in, "Files I worked on last June," and Spotlight will find all the files that you indeed did work on last June. This is great, because that means you no longer have to remember the exact file name that you had given to a specific document. As long as you know the approximate timeframe, Spotlight can help you to find it that much faster.

Source: The Next Web

Source: The Next Web

Another big improvement to the whole productivity aspect in OS X is that you can now Snap windows side-by-side. No longer do you have to waste precious minutes perfectly placing them on your screen - OS X can do this for you now. Granted, this feature first appeared in 2009 in Windows 7, and was then later improved upon in Windows 8 in 2012.

Another big improvement is the way Apple is using Metal, the optimization tool that was first introduced in mobile last year. It supposedly allows apps to launch up to 1.4x faster than on Yosemite, which is good. Safari also saw some minor improvements, with new ways to pin tabs (the new feature , and the ability to mute noisy tabs right from the URL bar (again, another feature that first appeared in Chrome).

OS X 10.11 El Capitan is available to developers today, a public beta will be made available in July, and a free download for all users in the Fall.

iOS 9

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

iOS 9, much like El Capitan, is all about making the platform faster and smarter overall. Federighi fielded this by first starting off by mentioning how iOS 8 was at an 83% user adoption rate, where as Android 5 Lollipop was only at 12%. This isn't surprising, given the fact that Android updates have long been a sticking point with the platform, especially with non-Nexus users, so I'm not exactly sure why Apple feels the need to mention this at every WWDC.

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Siri got a pretty great update, bringing it and Spotlight, the search application on iOS, closer together. Much like it's desktop counterpart, iOS users can now also search contextually. For instance, you can be browsing a web page, and ask Siri to remind you about it later, and it will know exactly what you're talking about. It's still not nearly as useful as Google Now is on Android, but it's a step in the right direction. 

Along with Siri is the announcement of Proactive, a smart assistant that knows what you want to do at any given time. It can queue up your favourite audio app whenever you plug in your headphones, or give you calendar based reminders to leave on time based on current traffic reports in your area. Again, it's a lot like Google Now in many aspects, and that's really not a terrible thing.

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Two minor changes were the Newsstand app that no one ever touched being rebranded as News with more of a Flipboard-esque vibe to it. In fact, it is a direct challenge to Flipboard, and almost every other news reading app on iOS, and it's built right into the platform itself. You can select any site already built into to News, or add in your own, but Apple insists that the best reading experiences come from those formatted to News, and I do have to admit that it looks absolutely stunning. Sites that you subscribe to will pull the aesthetics from their native pages, so that each article you read has its own distinct look and feel, which I think is a really nice touch. What's really compelling about this is that the more you read, the more News will be able to suggest new articles that it think you will be interested in. 

Passbook was also renamed to Wallet, and in another step in hoping to replace your actual wallet, Apple has opened up the app to let you store any loyalty cards you might have. This, in conjunction with Apple Pay, is really great. The downside to this, however, is that there is still no word on when, or even if, Apple Pay will ever come to Canada. It is, however, coming to the UK next, and will be supported by London's public transportation systems, which is really awesome. 

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

The iPad was also shown some serious love. With an improved task and app switcher (also taken from Android) and the ability to have two apps side-by-side on a single screen (a 50/50 or 70/30 split), the iPad has become the true post-pc device that it was always meant to be. The iPad now also has sortcuts just above the keyboard, with settings for cut/copy/paste, and if you slide two fingers down on the keyboard, it becomes a sort of trackpad that helps you to move the on-screen cursor around to help aid in more accurate text-selection. 

Along with all the new software features, Apple also went ahead and tried improving the battery life of your devices. By their estimates, you can now squeeze out an extra three hours of battery using their new low-power mode.

Two minor additions to the whole iOS 9 features announcements was that Maps was getting transit directions, and Notes was becoming more like Google Keep with the additions of making lists with checkboxes.

iOS 9 will have a public beta also available in July, and will also come out as a tiny 1.3GB update (down from the 5GB update that was iOS 8) in the Fall, and will be available on every device that supported iOS 8: iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 3, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, and the iPhones from the 4S all the way to 6+. If that's not insane support for your devices, I'm not sure what is.

watchOS

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

The Apple Watch also saw a brief update today, with the announcement of watchOS 2. Yes, watchOS does look a lot like webOS at a glance, but I guess that's a good thing, since most mobile operating systems are still using webOS as a source of inspiration. With watchOS 2, you can now have pictures from your photo albums as a watch face, along with something that they are calling, "Complications." 

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

As far as I can tell, Complications is just another watch face that gives you a bunch of different information on one screen, like sports scores, your car charge, flight information, as well as the time. Complications is also the worst name Apple has ever given a product in recent memory. A close runner up is Proactive, also from this event. With Complications comes another feature - Time Travel. You can scroll into the future and see those Complications update in real time based on current information.

The Watch also has a horizontal nightstand mode (cue the angry screams of everyone who just purchased a vertical charging stand), the ability to install native apps, answer FaceTime audio calls (I'm not sure how this is any different from a basic phone call that you answer on your watch, but sure) the ability to answer emails, and watch Vines. If you must do all of that, and watch videos on your watch, go ahead, but all of these announcements seem like they're coming from a company that still doesn't know what purpose this device is supposed to serve. But, more on that at a later date.

Developers can get their hands on watchOS 2 today, and the public will get the wide release in the Fall.

And if you think that was way less to announce than normal at WWDC, then you're right, because shortly after, Tim Cook came back on stage for the classic, "oh, one more thing..." moment.

APPLE MUSIC

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Jimmy Iovine took to the stage to announce Apple Music. As he put it, Music has been a mess for a very long time. Too many different ways and applications to stream too many different kinds of content, from audio to video. He wanted to fix that and consolidate it all. Hence, Apple Music.

Iovine broke it down by saying that they want to treat music like the art it is, not just bits of digital information, and not as a place where only top-tier artists get to hang out, but a place where the kids at home can also showcase their work as well. If that's not a direct, and really compelling Tidal burn, I'm not sure what is.

It's not just a streaming music service, but also a radio station, a way to connect with your fans, and will be a single app on our phone. The streaming music service will likely have access to the full iTunes library, which is really good since that's one of the largest out there in terms of sheer number. The Radio station concept seems like Apple is trying to take on Songza, 8tracks, Spotify, AND SoundCloud all at once. It's called Beats One, and will be a 24/7 service, and right now has three main DJs in charge. It's interesting, but I'm not sure I'd go for it myself. 

Connect is interesting, because it allows both signed and unsigned artists to upload their music, share it with their fans and potential new listeners. Both sides can comment and start a hopefully meaningful conversation. This is basically what iTunes Ping was always meant to be, but in this case, it actually has the potential to be a really useful tool. The only thing they didn't walk about was how the promotion or royalties would work.

One of the many questions I have regarding this app is if will replace the iTunes, Music, and Beats apps on your phone, or will it just become yet another app that you can't remove? If Apple is serious about this, then they'd really need to consolidate it all, remove the other three, and kill iTunes off entirely.

And here's the killer part - there will be Windows, and - wait for it - Android versions of the Apple Music app. Here's hoping that Apple designs each to fit the design language of the different operating systems, and doesn't shit out a half-assed port.

Apply Music will be $9.99/month for one users, and $14.99/month for families up to six people. That's kind of crazy.

And that's it for the major announcements at WWDC 2015. Some things to note were that the App Store is now seven years old, and has passed over 1 billion downloads, and that Apple, to date, has paid out over $30 billion to developers (the same amount that they make in roughly six weeks). The average iOS users also has 119 apps installed on his/her phone (of which 100 are Apple-made and you can't uninstall yourself) and that every single second, there are 850 apps downloaded from the App Store. Crazy numbers those are.Swift, the programming language that they announced last year went open-source, which is very un-Apple like, and even more un-Apple like is their support for Linux users.  

Side note, between Drake being onstage to talk about Apple Music, The Weeknd performing live, and various presenters searching recipies for poutine using Siri, WWDC 2015 was Canada's being Apple event today.


Apple WWDC 2015 Keynote Liveblog

Today was Apple's 26th World Wide Developer's Conference. Like previous years, Apple uses this as a platform to launch new products and services, refreshing existing lines and establishing new grounds going into their next year. Below you will find my liveblog of the two and a half hour long keynote that took place today.


  1. Apple should fix the dumpster fire that's Siri before trying to take on Google Now. Remember Apple Maps? No? Exactly  http://twitter.com/MobileSyrup/status/605067521805418498 
  2. Despite Apple nearing a $1 trillion market cap in the next few years, Apple's core software services (mail, calendar) really suck. #WWDC15
  3. #WWDC15 is Apple's 26th. 80% of attendees are coming for the first time. http://t.co/XZjm8bDAat
    #WWDC15 is Apple's 26th. 80% of attendees are coming for the first time. pic.twitter.com/XZjm8bDAat
  4. iOS, OS X, and now, watchOS. watchOS looks like webOS every time. #WWDC15 http://t.co/gc60Z2CcFG
    iOS, OS X, and now, watchOS. watchOS looks like webOS every time. #WWDC15 pic.twitter.com/gc60Z2CcFG
  5. OS X El Capitan. I really feel the need to say that with a weird mixture of both French & Spanish accents. #WWDC15 http://t.co/bs8NLlEntq
    OS X El Capitan. I really feel the need to say that with a weird mixture of both French & Spanish accents. #WWDC15 pic.twitter.com/bs8NLlEntq
  6. It's not an Apple keynote unless they try and shit all over Android. #WWDC15 http://t.co/TupctzU7gv
    It's not an Apple keynote unless they try and shit all over Android. #WWDC15 pic.twitter.com/TupctzU7gv
  7. "Siri is 40% faster at responding." And yet, still 100% not useful as Google Now. #WWDC15
  8. iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan are basically Apple's Android M. Small, but meaningful updates. #WWDC15
  9. Apple just announced Google Now at #WWDC15. Sorry, Proactive. God, what an atrocious, meaningless name. #WWDC15
  10. Apple's entire pitch for iOS is, "it's basically Android from two years ago, but we promise we don't do shady stuff with your data." #WWDC15
  11. Passbook is now Wallet, and Newsstand is now News. Also, now Apple Pay in Canada with iOS9 #WWDC15
  12. Is Apple really still trying to push Apple Maps? To anyone using that "service," please know how sorry I am for you. #WWDC15
  13. Okay, the iPad updates are kind of rad. Keyboard trackpad, better app switching, side-by-side apps. The iPad is now more Mac-like. #WWDC15
  14. When you think about it, we're maybe two versions away from iOS, Android, & Windows being different skins on the same thing #WWDC15
  15. Apple just open-sourced it's year old programming language, Swift. It now also supports Linux. #WWDC15
  16. iOS 9 upgrade a 1.3GB file, down from the massive 5GB iOS 8 update. Dev & Public betas available in July. #WWDC15
  17. The App Store is seven years old now, and passed 1 billion downloads. #WWDC15
  18. To date, Apple has paid $30 billion to developers. In context, they make that same amount every six weeks. #WWDC15
  19. Complications & Proactive. Apple just really knows how to name things, don't they? #WWDC15
  20. Oh good, with Time Travel, the Apple Watch now has even more input methods, as if it weren't already complicated enough. #WWDC15
  21. Apple is trying to hard to bring every iOS feature to the Apple Watch, which just shows that they don't get it. #WWDC15
  22. Google got it 100% right with Android Wear. Notifications, search, quick replies, and directions. That's all you need on a watch. #WWDC15
  23. The Apple Watch supports FaceTime audio. So...a normal phone call routed through your watch? #WWDC15 http://t.co/vkXzLhxK6K
    The Apple Watch supports FaceTime audio. So...a normal phone call routed through your watch? #WWDC15 pic.twitter.com/vkXzLhxK6K
  24. Does Apple really think that watching Vines on a tiny 1-inch screen is a good idea/use-case for the Watch? #WWDC15
  25. Momentum and excitement at WWDC waned noticeably when talk switched to the Apple Watch. It's still so rudimentary and nascent.
  26. Iovine wants to consolidate streaming music and video. I disagree. Music & video are vastly different experiences. #WWDC15
  27. That's why I wasn't keen on Spotify offering podcasts. I want different apps for different experiences. #WWDC15
  28. So wait, Apple Music is replacing iTunes, Beats Audio, and the Music app on your iPhone? Or is that ANOTHER app you can't remove? #WWDC15
  29. Apple Music also serves as a 24/7 global radio station. Great, another feature that no one will ever use. #WWDC15
  30. Apple Music is $9.99/month, $14.99/month for up to 6 family members. #WWDC15
  31. Apple Music Connect is iTunes Ping 2: Electric Boogaloo. #WWDC15
  32. People are literally applauding being able to move a song from one position in a playlist to another
  33. In a very un-Appple like move, Apple Music is coming to Android. #WWDC15.
  34. So, to sum it up: BeatsOne is 24/7 Internet radio. Artist Connect is social thingy for connecting w artists. Apple Music is streaming music.
  35. Okay, being able to share a song directly from Apple Music to Twitter, instead of a YouTube link, is pretty baller. #WWDC15
  36. Am I the only one that felt like #WWDC15 was even more underwhelming than #IO15?

Google I/O 2015

Today was the eighth annual Google Conference, I/O. This is the day when Google unveils everything that it has been working towards over the past year, and typically, it features some really interesting improvements to existing services, as well as announcements of some new products.

This year was no different. During the nearly two hour long keynote, we saw several of Google's top execs and team leaders take to the stage to discuss several new things: The Android  M Developer Preview, Chrome, Android Pay, Android Wear, The Internet of Things, Google Now, Maps, Photos, and interestingly enough, Cardboard.

So, let's start breaking it down.

Android M Developer Preview

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Much like with the release of last year's Android 5.0 Lollipop, Google is keeping what name of it's next iteration of Android under wraps. Going by the internal code of Macadamia Nut Cookie, M is also following it's predecessor L in that there will be a Developer Preview, so that devs can get used to all of the new changes in the updated operating system.

What Google focused on during the keynote was an updated permissions, giving you more granular controls, Chrome, Android Pay, and a renewed focus on battery life.

The updated permissions are actually really good, something that should have happened long ago. Currently, when you want to install an application, the Play Store informs you of everything the app is requestion permission to access. That will still be there, to an extent, but instead of having a long laundry list of permissions that are hard to understand, Google has simplified them. 

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Apps no longer have blanket access to everything, from your contacts to camera to microphone. The permissions are now only triggered when you access a certain event inside of the application. Google gave the example of WhatsApp. Let's say you want to take a photo, using the camera inside the share-a-photo shortcut in the conversation panel. Instead of already having access, WhatsApp will ask you for permission in a one-time only pop-up dialog box. This way, if you never use that feature, WhatsApp will never have access to that permission. It's a way to directly control what your apps can and cannot access on your phone, and it's a step in the right direction.

Chrome was also talked about heavily. In it's current state, it feels more like an app, something separate from your workflow. When you browse Twitter, Facebook, or your RSS reader of choice, and click on a link, the app will boot you out into Chrome. It's jarring, and not effective. Sure, there are a ways around this using apps like Link Bubble or Flynx, but those are more so a stop-gap. They too feel separate, and not really a part of the overall experience that you get from the app you're currently inside of. The way Google is tackling this is by including something called Chrome Custom Tabs.

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Custom tabs effectively are the same thing as Facebook Instant Articles. The way it works is that let's say your inside an app, and you find a link that you want to quickly check out. You click on it, and instead of being booted out into Chrome, you remain inside of the app. Instead what happens is that a secondary pane slides out from the right. It looks like it belongs in the app itself, borrowing the colours and overall aesthetics, but it's actually a dedicated Chrome window. You could say that it's a form of an internal browser, but it formats itself so much nicer and better than anything else that's currently being used. Chrome takes this a step further too. Instead of only being used for articles, like Facebook Instant, it works with just about any link you throw at it. 

Chrome also has another really interesting feature. Any of the passwords that you have saved inside of the browser will carry over to apps of the same name. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Amazon. No longer will you have to enter in your passwords multiple times, and that makes me really happy.

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Android Pay was also debuted at I/O. Compared to the fanfare around Apple Pay, Android Pay's announcement was a little subdued and felt like more of a secondary announcement. It works just like Apple Pay does - any Android device that's NFC enabled can go up to a payment terminal, tap, and it will allow you to select your payment method from a variety of cards that you enter and store on the device itself. It's seamless, and seems fairly quick. No more fumbling with change, or trying to pry apart too many cards that are stuck together in your wallet.

Android Pay seems like the most natural progression of what Google Wallet was always meant to be. Not only does it work in brick-and-mortar retail stores, it will also work online and inside your apps. If you need to make a quick IAP to get that Candy Crush fix, or if you really just want to buy that sick beat from Taylor Swift, you can do so now through Android Pay. It's a one tap solution online, meaning you don't have to enter that 16 digit string of numbers, and you immediately get an email receipt.

What's great about Android Pay is that Google is also tackling fingerprint sensors head-on. Fingerprint readers have been present in Android in some shape or form since 2011, starting with the Motorola ATRIX. Instead of leaving it up to OEMs like Samsung and Motorola, Google is enabling the proper APIs in Android M for fingerprint sensors and scanners, so you know that it will work. You don't have to worry if Samsung will get it right or not, because it's not something that they're tacking on to Android - it's already baked right in.

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Remember Project Volta? It was announced at I/O '14, along side Android L. It was meant to be Google's attempt at managing the battery performance on your phone, and for the most part, it didn't really live up to the hype. Aside from the Battery Saver mode built into stock Android, Volta didn't do much to ease the battery drain. It didn't help that Android Lollipop had a nasty memory leak bug that still has yet to be really fixed.

Doze, however, is Google's 2015 attempt at rectifying all of this. Android M will intelligently learn how often you use your device, and during what times of the day. So if you use it more during the waking hours, it won't necessarily drop down into a deep sleep every time you power off the display. But if you don't use it when you're sleeping, the device will drop down into a deeper sleep state, only allowing alarms and certain notifications that you want to come through to come through. Google said they had tested this on a device with Lollipop and a device running the developer preview of M, and on M, the battery lasted up to 2x as longer as it did on Lollipop. If that's true, that's really good news, because it means I can likely drop the number of power banks that I carry on me on a daily basis.

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Along with the new software, there will be some new hardware coming with Android M. When the next Nexus device (or devices if the rumours are to be correct) launches likely in the fall, it will support USB Type-C. Yes, the same connector type found in the new MacBook, the Nokia N1, and in the 2015 Chromebook Pixel. It's that reversible, universal USB connection that I'm really excited about, because it's taken Apple's Lightning connector idea, and doused it in a cocktail of tech steroids. What's cool about this is that because it's reversible, you can decide how you want the connection to function. You have charge your phone, or use your phone to charge other device, or use it to transfer data like normal. I'm interested in seeing how this will all play out once M is released in full, but that's still a few months away.

And last but not least, Google has fixed, yes fixed, copy/paste. I've always found that while copy/paste is better and more accurate on Android than it is on iOS (personal preference), it still needed some work.You'd have to be extremely precise when dragging your finger across words, or it'd highlight everything, or something, nothing at all. The new copy/paste works by highlighting word chunks, letting you go back letter by letter when you want to de-select something. And instead of having the copy/cut/paste buttons at the very top of your screen, you now have a floating bar instead hovering right above the selection that you've just highlighted. This is so good that during the keynote, someone actually yelled out, "FINALLY!" Yup.

Android Wear

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Android Wear was fully announced roughly a year ago. Since then, various OEMs have made devices, from Samsung, to LG and Motorola. The whole concept of Android Wear in general is kind of genius in it's utter simplicity - it serves as both a watch, and your notification center. You don't have to dive into an app on your watch to do everything you need to do; that's saved for your phone. What happens on your watch are quick, glanceable, and actionable, or so Google says, and I have to agree with them. As it is, once I get a notification on my phone, I get distracted by diving into the rest of that notification's app. On the watch, I don't want to be doing that. I want to see it, reply or dismiss it, and then get back to my life. And that's something I find you don't get on the Apple Watch.

"Checking the time is really cool."

Android Wear, in it's current form, has over 4.000 dedicated apps to get notifications from. You can get direction, do more voice-actions like yell into your watch to hail an Uber down, and so much more. And yet, you don't get drawn all the way it. It's there, a simple, effortless extension of your life.

Right now, there are over 1,500 different watch faces for Android Wear, and as far as I can tell, only 10 for the Apple Watch, lending even more credence to Google's, "Be Together, Not The Same," ad campaign.

What they did with Android Wear this time around was extend its use-case even further, by letting it become one of the central pieces in Project Brillo, it's new push towards the Internet of Things.

Project Brillo

Souce: The Verge

Souce: The Verge

The Internet of Things is a simple idea - why should your appliances be dumb and stuck in the past? Why can't they all talk to one another and learn? Why can't they adapt to your schedule, automating themselves to make your life easier?

This is where Project Brillo comes in. Brillo is derived from Android, but is polished down to just the lower layers like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth Low Energy. This means that you can set your stove to preheat when you're 10 minutes away from home, or turn on your washing machine as you sit on your couch. It's the first step to automating your home and your life, letting you control everything from your phone or watch.

What's interesting is that Google has pulled in members from the Nest, Chrome OS, and Android teams to help build Brillo, which they hope to make into the underlying OS for all IoT devices. This ensures that everything can and will talk together using something that they call WEAVE, which is the communications layer. 

While this portion of the presentation was fairly brief, I'm sure that we'll hear more in the weeks and months to come.

Google Now

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Google Now is easily one of the more futuristic and impressive ventures Google has ever implemented into, well, anything. It's incredibly useful, giving you contextual cards based on your search history and location. Let's say I searched for a pair of headphones two weeks ago, and Google noticed that Amazon decided to put it on sale. I'd get a card notification letting me know that. That's one of the many, many things that Google now can do, and today, it just got infinitely better.

Google Now Now on Tap, a weirdly awkward mouthful of a name, is insane. Basically, it reads your screen for information that it thinks you might want to know about, and then feeds it to you. So if I got a text or email from my friend asking to go see a movie, Mad Max for instance, and I want to know more about it, all I'd have to do is long press the home button and Google Now would pop up from the bottom, giving me all the information and links I'd need to know more about the movie, including the main actors. Another example is if you're looking up a a restaurant, and don't know exactly what the third item on the menu is, long press the home button and Google will just tell you.

"Word error rates in speech recognition has dropped from 23% down to 8% since 2013."

Even crazier? Get a text about a restaurant, pull up Now on Tap, and instantly make a reservation. No more fumbling around with your phone. The crazy thing is that you're not actually leaving the app you were just in. This happens all as a layer on top, meaning you can slide right back into your text, email, or Google search. And up until now, Google Now, while incredibly useful, felt much like Chrome - just another app that was a separate experience from everything else on your phone. Now it feels more natural, like the perfect evolution of search, building it right into your phone, making it predictive, superseding any query you might have.

Google Photos

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Google Photos has long been one of Google's better products. It automatically backs everything up to your account, so that even when you lose or change your phone for a newer one, you can still access every photo you've ever taken. However, up until now, it was buried deep inside of Google+, a service that while I like, is really clunky. It wasn't the easiest to organize either, and would often leave you with duplicates of the same photo if you sent it in a message to any of your friends. 

With Photos having officially been separate from Google+, Google seems to have fixed that. Now, you can access all your photos across your Android devices, the web, and now on your iOS device. 

"But first, lemme take a selfie!"

What's great about Photos is that you can pinch-to-zoom right into a photo from a collection, or pinch-to-zoom out to see the day, week, months, or even years that your photos were taken in. That's not the craziest part - Photos can literally recognize you from birth to four years later. Even in a dimly lit shot of you taken from 15 feet away, Google can recognize you, and while that may seem scary, it really makes me excited because now it means I don't have to worry about tagging my photos. I can take 11 totally different pictures of my friend, and have Google group them all together automatically. Photos can even recognize places you've been to. Let's say you have photos of the CN Tower, you can search for the CN Tower right within the app, and every photo that has the CN Tower in it will pop up, again, all without you having to do any (geo)tagging or metadata entry.

Google also announced that you can store the original photo in it's full resolution up to 16MP and video up to 1080p using your exiting Google Drive storage, or it will compress the photo down in size. Even then, the compression isn't terrible, and the photos still look great. The kicker is that if you opt for the compressed image file size, you then get free, unlimited storage. Forever. Yeah, that's right. Google dropped the mic so hard on this one that I'm fairly sure Dropbox crapped their pants a little.

Cardboard & VR

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Last year, in response to all the VR hype surrounding Occulus and Sony's Project Morpheus, Google decided to take them on in the most tongue-in-cheek manner possible. They created a simple cardboard housing for your phone that when paired with an app, turned your phone into a VR headset. It was cheap, and it worked really well. I distinctly remember various YouTubers being really impressed by it.

According to Google, there are currently 1 million Cardboard viewers, and the majority of them are in the classroom. They demoed how teachers are using it to help their students to interact with the study material on a greater level, which then actually gets them more excited and involved. It's also incredibly cheap. While I didn't get mine officially through Google's I/O event last year, I was able to order one online for $3 CDN from Hong Kong, and have it shipped to me within two weeks. You can't really get more affordable than that, and it beats plonking a TV down in front of your students.

For the next billion people, their smartphone will be their only computer, and for the vast majority, they will be Android users. Eight out of every 10 devices shipped worldwide are Android based now, meaning Google has an incredible reach for potentially life-changing educational resources found in Cardboard. Compared to the recently unveiled $1,500 price tag for the Occulus Rift, Cardboard is incredibly compelling.

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Beyond the educational purposes, Google is also taking VR to the absolute next level with their 360-degree VR rig. They partnered up with GoPro for a demo video, and it's honestly incredible being pan around inside of a video - the element of immersion is quite incredible. Just watch for yourself

There were some other announcements during the keynote as well, but they were incredibly brief, or mentioned in passing (offline Google Maps, Project Loon, and self-driving cars). Regardless, Google set the stage for the next 12 months, and it's going to be an exciting time. Android M is set to release sometime in Q3, hopefully alongside a new Nexus or two. And with that comes a whole slew of new and exciting things to try out.

Android M, and the rest of this keynote, is the JellyBean update to ICS that we really needed in 2015 - small, meaningful, and incredibly important.

Google I/O 2015 Keynote Liveblog

Today was Google's annual developer conference, I/O. During the near two hour long keynote, we saw many different executives and team leaders from different teams get up on stage and announce some really cool new features.

We got to see that Android M is going the same route as Android L, by offering up a developer preview. That the new permissions are contextual, and only come up when you trigger an event inside of an application, and that the permissions themselves have been trimmed and made easier to understand. We saw that Chrome is taking another step forward into becoming another aspect of Android, as opposed to a separate web browser. We got to see how Android Pay would work, and that Google finally fixed copy/paste on mobile. Sundar Pichai talked about the Internet of Things, and Aparna Chennapragada discussed the future of Google Now. Google Photos got a killer revamp, and Cardboard is literally changing the way students interact and learn in classrooms all over the world.

What we didn't see, however, was an in-depth look into Android M, or hear anything regarding Google+ or Hangouts. Regardless, Google I/O 2015 really stepped its game up, and I'm thoroughly excited to see everything slowly roll out over the next few weeks.

Below, you will find my liveblog of the event, and another post delving into these various topics to help further explain them will be up soon.

  1. I'm super stoked to see what Android released two years ago at Apple's #WWDC2015 next week.
  2. Brace yourselves: There's only 24 minutes left until your timeline is full of Google #IO15 news from yours truly. http://t.co/tnOUF4Y7Ap
    Brace yourselves: There's only 24 minutes left until your timeline is full of Google #IO15 news from yours truly. pic.twitter.com/tnOUF4Y7Ap
  3. And we're off (flying through the solar system, finally landing on earth)! #IO15
  4. This is one insanely long drawn out introduction countdown. #IO15
  5. Man, I want to be Sundar's friend. He seems like he's one of the nicest, smartest, and most thoughtful execs in tech. #IO15
  6. A billion users in each of Google's core products: Search, YouTube, Maps, Gmail, Android, and Chrome. #IO15
  7. Over 4,000 distinct Android devices, 400 OEMs, and 500 carriers. #IO15 http://t.co/K6lkFOuNpL
    Over 4,000 distinct Android devices, 400 OEMs, and 500 carriers. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/K6lkFOuNpL
  8. Like last year's Android L Developer Preview, Android M is going the same route. #IO15 http://t.co/R45xPErLgC
    Like last year's Android L Developer Preview, Android M is going the same route. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/R45xPErLgC
  9. New simpler, smaller app permissions list. Apps only ask when you try to use the feature, instead of when you first install it. #IO15
  10. So far, it looks like Android M will be to Lollipop as Jelly Bean was to ICS - small, meaningful, and important. #IO15
  11. Chrome Custom Tabs - no more dumping out of an app into Chrome; it's one seamless experience. #IO15 http://t.co/iXsF20cyam
    Chrome Custom Tabs - no more dumping out of an app into Chrome; it's one seamless experience. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/iXsF20cyam
  12. Another way to look at Chrome Custom Tabs is that it's like Facebook Instant Articles, but for EVERYTHING. #IO15
  13. Oh man, saved passwords in Chrome will carry over to the apps installed in your phone. That's huge. #IO15
  14. Android Pay! It works with any device that has NFC, and at over 700K retailers (and in-app as well). #IO15 http://t.co/qXlQVxNtBX
    Android Pay! It works with any device that has NFC, and at over 700K retailers (and in-app as well). #IO15 pic.twitter.com/qXlQVxNtBX
  15. Android Pay is what Google Wallet was always meant to be. Hopefully it will come to Canada this time around. #IO15
  16. Google is building native support for fingerprint sensors right into Android, instead of leaving it up to OEMs like Samsung/Motorola. #IO15
  17. Remember Project Volta? Google is taking a new effort to manage battery life better using "Doze" #IO15 http://t.co/h4dEUHyRnl
    Remember Project Volta? Google is taking a new effort to manage battery life better using "Doze" #IO15 pic.twitter.com/h4dEUHyRnl
  18. What's good is that alarms and high-priority messages will still come through. Doze on M lasts 2x longer than on Lollipop. #IO15
  19. USB-C connectors are going to become the standard in Android really soon. 3-5x faster charging. #IO15 http://t.co/7LtxegueG3
    USB-C connectors are going to become the standard in Android really soon. 3-5x faster charging. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/7LtxegueG3
  20. Oh my god. Google fixed copy/paste in Android M. Someone in the audience yelled, "FINALLY!" #IO15 http://t.co/P74ewfwKiZ
    Oh my god. Google fixed copy/paste in Android M. Someone in the audience yelled, "FINALLY!" #IO15 pic.twitter.com/P74ewfwKiZ
  21. There are over 1,500 different watch faces for Android Wear. Only 10 for Apple Watch. #BeTogetherNotTheSame #IO15
  22. "Checking the time is pretty cool." God bless you Google, god bless you. #IO15
  23. This is exactly why Android Wear is so much easier to use and get into than the Apple Watch. It's completely effortless. #IO15
  24. More than 4,000 apps built specifically for Android Wear. Not sure if that's more or less than the Apple Watch. #IO15 http://t.co/X7BHX5rlNx
    More than 4,000 apps built specifically for Android Wear. Not sure if that's more or less than the Apple Watch. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/X7BHX5rlNx
  25. Brillo is derive from Android, but polished down to just the lower layers (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, etc). #IO15 http://t.co/rGgjD3Lyfh
    Brillo is derive from Android, but polished down to just the lower layers (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth Low Energy, etc). #IO15 pic.twitter.com/rGgjD3Lyfh
  26. Weave is the communications layer, letting all of your devices talk to each other. #IO15 http://t.co/VCBsQQYOYH
    Weave is the communications layer, letting all of your devices talk to each other. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/VCBsQQYOYH
  27. Pichai is talking about the Internet of Things, like controlling your home or farm right from your phone. #IO15
  28. The Nest, Android, and Chrome OS teams are working together on Project Brillo, the underlying OS for IoT. #IO15
  29. Word error rates in speech recognition has dropped from 23% down to 8% since 2013. Computer science, y'all. #IO15
  30. Aparna Chennapragada takes the stage to talk about Google Now. #IO15
  31. Google Now is pretty incredible. It has zero competition, and just keeps getting better. Now on Tap is a perfect example of this. #IO15
  32. Now on Tap just knows and pulls up information based on the app your in. Music, email, text messages. #IO15 http://t.co/GFcdmJ24lO
    Now on Tap just knows and pulls up information based on the app your in. Music, email, text messages. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/GFcdmJ24lO
  33. Google Now, until recently, felt like it was completely separate from the rest of Android. Now it feels totally natural. #IO15
  34. Google early 2000s: indexing the web Google 2015: indexing apps (with Google Now)
  35. These demos of Google Now are pretty mindblowing. EG: Get a text about a restaurant? Make a reservation instantly.
  36. It’s the evolution of Google Search: It builds search into the phone, making it predictive, superseding query search.
  37. Google Photos has been around for a while, but no longer will it be buried inside Google+. #IO15 http://t.co/P5SgatNJlc
    Google Photos has been around for a while, but no longer will it be buried inside Google+. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/P5SgatNJlc
  38. Pinch to zoom across days, weeks, months, and years. "Focus on making memories, not managing them." #IO15 http://t.co/MH4BK1JSNE
    Pinch to zoom across days, weeks, months, and years. "Focus on making memories, not managing them." #IO15 pic.twitter.com/MH4BK1JSNE
  39. Holy shit. Google Photos can recognize the same person from literal birth to four years later, no photo tagging required. #IO15
  40. I'm not sure why Google didn't just bake Snapseed right into the new Photos app. Another photo editor seems...counter-intuitive. #IO15
  41. Google is letting you backup and store unlimited photos and videos with the new Photos. HOLY SHIT. FOR FREE. #IO15 http://t.co/PVe7tyF9ab
    Google is letting you backup and store unlimited photos and videos with the new Photos. HOLY SHIT. FOR FREE. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/PVe7tyF9ab
  42. Sure, it'll be compressed, but it's original resolution up to 16 megapixels, & 1080p for videos. #IO15
  43. How much do you want to bet that Dropbox just crapped its pants a little? #IO15
  44. "For the next billion, their phone will be their only computer. The vast majority will be Android users." #IO15
  45. 8 out of 10 devices shipped worldwide are running Android. #IO15
  46. Offline search and turn-by-turn navigation in Google Maps is all kinds of amazing. #IO15 http://t.co/9dlSFU8beq
    Offline search and turn-by-turn navigation in Google Maps is all kinds of amazing. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/9dlSFU8beq
  47. I'm really hoping that there's some news on a Hangouts refresh. #IO15
  48. More cheers for C++ & Polymer 1.0 than Google Now or Offline maps. I'm starting to think that this is a developer conference. #IO15
  49. Developers can now see precise data, and where their customers are based all over the world in Google Play. #IO15 http://t.co/YGSt5cAK9f
    Developers can now see precise data, and where their customers are based all over the world in Google Play. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/YGSt5cAK9f
  50. Google Play has 1 billion users every day, and 50 billion app installs over the last 12 months. #IO15
  51. Google Cardboard has more than 1 million viewers, & is changing classrooms all over the world in a tangible way #IO15 http://t.co/jJjROJq9ok
    Google Cardboard has more than 1 million viewers, & is changing classrooms all over the world in a tangible way #IO15 pic.twitter.com/jJjROJq9ok
  52. Google is making a 360-degree VR camera rig. GoPro will one of the partners. #IO15 http://t.co/gIuAWESekR
    Google is making a 360-degree VR camera rig. GoPro will one of the partners. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/gIuAWESekR
  53. "It's accurate, beautiful, stereoscopic VR. You don't see any spliced image lines." #IO15
  54. Google's self-driving vehicles have driven over 1 million miles with zero accidents due to the autonomous car itself. #IO15
  55. Project Loon can stay 100+ days in the air (2x that of NASA), providing 10 Mbps LTE, with 500m accuracy. #IO15
  56. And that's it. Pichai wraps it up. No stage time for Duarte, and no mention of Hangouts or Google+. #IO15 http://t.co/vPLJlkyP8Q
    And that's it. Pichai wraps it up. No stage time for Duarte, and no mention of Hangouts or Google+. #IO15 pic.twitter.com/vPLJlkyP8Q

Doors Open Toronto 2015

This weekend was the 16th annual #DoorsOpenTO. Buildings and landmarks all over the city opened their doors to the public, letting them see a beautiful side of Toronto that's normally not available during the rest of the year.

All my photos were taken on my Nikon D3200, and edited in Google+ Snapseed & VSCO Cam.

Use the arrows on either side of the image to scroll through.

Top 5 Designed Smartphones

If you're reading this, then you know that a good smartphone is more than just its spec-sheet - that it involves thoughtful and considered design. You know that your phone is the most intimate device that you use on a daily basis, and that for it to fit into your life, it has to first fit into your hand nicely. You know that your preference in a phone is entirely subjective - what works for you may not work for someone else. You know all of this because you are likely as much, maybe more, of a smartphone enthusiast as I am.

So, in no particular order, here is my list of the top five best designed smartphones.


HTC One X (2012)

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

Coming from two previously lackluster devices, the Rezound and Vivid, the HTC One X was like a breath of fresh air. It featured a plastic unibody build, and for the first time, plastic actually felt good in the hand. It felt glossier than the supposed matte finish was meant to, but that wasn't a bad thing. The screen was a whopping 4.7" 720x1280 resolution panel, which for the time, ran circles around the competition. Everything about the phone felt thoughtful, even the somewhat unsightly camera bulge had it's purpose. When laid on it's back, the bulge would ever so slightly tilt the phone, letting the rear facing speakers gain a megaphone effect. 

This device would help HTC to find it's own design language, eventually leading up to the wildly successful HTC One (M8) in 2013. 

One of my closest friends got this device on day one, and was using it up until very recently. He had to switch it for another phone when he switched carriers, but whenever he and I would hang out, I was lust after the sheer beauty of the One X, often comparing it to my own phone at the time, whether it was the HTC Desire or the LG Nexus 5. 

Google/LG Nexus 4 (2012)

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

When I was getting ready to end my contract with TELUS and ditch my rapidly ageing HTC Desire, I was looking at the then year-old Nexus 4. The Nexus 5 hadn't been announced yet, and I was in a crunch to find something new. I wanted to test out the HTC One M8, the Samsung Galaxy S4, but neither seemed compelling enough. I kept getting called back to the Nexus 4.

I'm not sure whether it was the screen gently curved at the edges, or the way the sides of the phone slopped gracefully towards the back that made it so attractive, but damn, the Nexus 4 looked and felt premium. It was the culmination of everything Google had been working towards with Android at the time, and they couldn't keep it in stock long enough to meet the incredibly high demand. 

Now, don't get me wrong - I love my Nexus 5 and wouldn't trade it for anything...except for maybe the Nexus 4. The 5, also made by LG, feels almost too utilitarian, too plain. It has no self-defining features or characteristics about it. The 4 felt like it was built for the hand, and the way the back would shimmer when light would hit it just so, it was absolutely dreamy. Just read the way people were raving about this device. 

I will likely always regard the Nexus 4 as one of the best built phones of all time. It was definitely one of the best built phones of 2012, that's for sure.

Motorola Moto X (2013)

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

There was a time when Motorola was widely regarding as being a manufacturer that you'd want to stay as far away as possible from. They made clunky phones with an absolutely terrible UI (remember Motoblur?) and it was one of the more unpleasant experiences you could've had on any smartphone.

That all changed in 2013, when Motorola announced that their long rumoured smartphone refresh, dubbed the X-Phone, would be called the Moto X (as well two sub-tier devices in the form of the Moto G and Moto E). While it was far from being the perfect device, it was a massive step in the right direction. Motorola decided to leave out any bloatware and stayed away from skinning Android, instead opting for the look and feel similar to that found on any Nexus device. What really made this phone stand out though was the fact that you could customize it to your liking. Motorola unveiled the Moto Maker, a tool that let you pick the colours, the backing, the tints on the trim, and even the wallpaper that would ship with the device. It was the precursor to Google's, "Be Together; Not The Same" ad campaign.

On top of that, Motorola added this subtle dimple on the back, right where your index finger tends to rest, and it made the already ergonomic phone even better in your hand.

Samsung Galaxy A5 (2014)

Source: TechSpot

Source: TechSpot

After three successful, yet wildly disappointing phones in the form of the S3, the S4, and the S5, Samsung was out to reinvent itself. After years of complaints from customers begging Samsung to ditch the slimy plastic in favour of higher end metals, Samsung delivered. 

The Galaxy A5 was not meant to be a flagship device, but rather, a reference point or stepping stone. It was the Korean giant's way of saying, "okay, we're listening." It had a glass panel on the front, chamfered metal edges on the side, and the ever-present removable plastic back. The A5 wasn't perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a step in the right direction. Yes, it borrowed quite heavily from the Apple iPhone 4 & 5, but that didn't detract from just how good the thing felt in my hand.

It was the first time since the near god-tier Galaxy S II that I was wowed by a Samsung device.  

Apple iPhone 6 (2014)

Source: The Verge

Source: The Verge

This one was by far the hardest to decide. I knew that I wanted to include an iPhone to this list, purely because no list would be complete or honest without one. There's no doubt that the iPhone changed the entire smartphone industry way back in 2007, but which one do I choose?

For a long time now, I regarded the iPhone 5S as the best designed iPhone ever. It had the solid feel in your hand that the current iPhone 6 doesn't. It had the chamfered metal edges, and was the first iPhone to include a TouchID. There was even a movie filmed entirely using this device. The only issue that I could thing of was that the screen was far too small. At 4", the iPhone 5S is a device built for ants, and that's why the iPhone 6 takes this slot.

The 5.5" iPhone 6+, while arguably a slightly better version than its 4.7" brother on account of it having OIS, is just far too big of a device. It's larger than the Galaxy Note 4, and the same size as the 5.96" Google/Motorla Nexus 6. 4.7"-5.2" is the sweet spot for phones, and the iPhone 6 nailed it. It has rounded corners that feel great in the hand, but are quite slippery, meaning that the phone is prone to dropping. A lot. The screen is great, with vibrant colours, and for the first time, Apple moved the power button to the side of the device - an incredibly smart move. It's also one of the few devices to place the 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom of the phone, something I wish more OEMs would do (it honestly just makes sense. Put your phone in your pocket and you'll understand why this bugs me so much).

The iPhone 6 is everything Apple has been working towards. It unifies the design language between the iPhone and the iPad, and is honestly a joy to use. If I wasn't so already entrenched in the Google ecosystem, I could see myself using an iPhone 6 quite easily.


And there you have it - the top five best designed smartphones to have ever been made. There will be no "number one best" ever, because each phone has its own merits and faults. It's up to you to find the phone that you like best, and run with it.

Elon Musk Wants to Sell You a Battery

Tony Stark has nothing on Elon Musk.

Ever since Steve Jobs, the late CEO of Apple, unveiled the iPhone in 2007, we've had CEO after CEO of almost every major company in almost every major industry, take to the stage trying to convince us that their newest product will revolutionize the world. Now,  I love watching companies give their keynote speeches when they're unveiling new products, and I've seen so many of these keynotes. The thing is that ultimately, when you boil it all down, Steve Jobs, and every other CEO after him, have been trying to sell you a better smartphone, car, or augmented reality. When Elon Musk took to the stage last night, he was selling us something else - a better future, and I've never been more excited.

Basically, Elon Musk wants to sell you a battery, and he doesn't particularly care whether or not you own one of his Tesla auto mobiles. What's interesting is that while there are plenty of ideas on how we can cut down our dependence on fossil fuels and save the world, Musk's is genuinely interesting, and seemingly viable. I mean, REALLY viable.

In a brief, 20 minute keynote, he outlined what he wants to do with Tesla Energy. For $3,000/$3,500 USD, you can buy either a 7kWh or 10kWh 220 pound battery that sits on a wall in your garage (or wherever. That part is up to you entirely). The battery would then plug into a series of sensors, ideally SolarCity's solar panels, allowing you to then store any excess energy produced in case you need it.

Currently, most cities partner with solar panel providers, and users of those panels. Any extra energy produced isn't being stored, but is rather re-directed back into the overall grid to help even out the distribution. With that, you get some money back and can deduct the overall expense from your taxes. However, that really only works when the sun is out. At night time, especially during the hotter months such as August, when everyone has the A/C on, you're right back to square one - drawing your power from the grid.

With these new batteries, you can store any excess power generated from the solar panels, meaning you could effectively remove yourself from the grid altogether. This route, however, isn't entirely practical, since the average household uses 30kWh a day. Depending on how much solar energy you're able to generate, it's still better than nothing. 

Businesses can order an even larger 100kWh battery pack that's roughly the size of a refrigerator, meaning that if there ever is a power outage, they have enough in their reserves to keep chugging along.

Think of it this way. In 14 and a half seconds, the sun provides as much energy to Earth as humanity uses in a day. In 88 minutes, the sun produces 470 exajoules of energy, as much energy all of humanity consumes in a year. In 112 hours, or a little under five days, it provides 36 zettajoules of energy, or, as much power contained in all of earth's oil, gas, and coal reserves. Combined.  The numbers are actually staggering, and makes you wonder why we haven't moved in this direction sooner.

It gets crazier. Musk wants to build what he's calling a Gigafactory in the deserts of Nevada, so that he can start spitting these batteries out by 2017.

That's not even the coolest part about this whole thing though. Musk, through Tesla Energy, has made it so that the battery packs can scale up infinitely. Basically, you could daisychain as many of these batteries together. He estimates that you'd need about 161 million of these to power all of the United States. Forever. And to power the entire planet? A little over 2 billion. And these batteries can connect to even more wind and solar arrays, drawing and storing as much power as they can handle, which if you think about it, is really cool.

Those numbers seem a tad far-fetched, but when you think about the fact that there are currently approximately 2 billion cars and trucks on the road today, it suddenly becomes realistic.

I'm not sure if Elon Musk will succeed, but given his track record with Tesla and SpaceX, I'm extremely hopeful. Musk, and Tesla Energy, might not have kill our reliance on fossil fuels, but 2¢ per kWh will change the world. He is putting his money where is mouth is when he talks about positively changing the world, and if there was anyone who could pull something like this off, it's him.

If you're not convinced by my enthusiasm, watch Elon Musk's speech here:

My Thoughts on Microsoft's //BUILD/ 2015 Conference

Google Fi

As of today, Google is officially a mobile carrier. Well, technically. Let's backup for just a second. As of today, Google is officially an MVNO.

The entire premise behind Google Project Fi is that as you move around, the coverage of your network provider tends to vary. By tapping into your phone's location services, Fi will be able to intelligently switch from Wi-Fi to LTE, using one of it's two current partners - Sprint and T-Mobile. This dynamic carrier should theoretically mean that you, as the end user, should bear witness to higher call quality, and fewer dropped calls.

The kicker behind Project Fi is how it's priced. 

It's a $20/month base fee, and $10/GB pay per use. When you compare it to most two-year terms on any North American provider, it's priced extremely competitively. For example, right now my contract with Rogers Canada is $85/month + taxes for unlimited calling and texting Canada wide with no roaming fees. However, I only have 2GBs of data, which I go over almost every month. I could switch to a cheaper plan using WIND, but that would then mean I lose quite a bit of coverage as soon as I leave the downtown core of Toronto. 

And that's why Fi is super compelling - Google is partnering with multiple carriers and giving you the best possible deal for the lowest possible price. What's amazing is that if you don't use your allotted data cap, you won't be charged. So let's say you use your full 4GBs of data, you'll be charged $40, however if you only use 2.5GBs of data, Fi will only charge you $25. The pay-per-use model is really quite compelling when you think about it.

However, there are a few problems when you consider the fact that Google is going the route of an MVNO. Currently, Fi only works with one phone - the Nexus 6. That immediately limits their scope.  Being an MVNO means you don't have a huge range, but I don't think that that is the Google's goal here. I think that what they are trying to do with Fi is similar to what they are trying to do with the Nexus program - show the incumbents an example of how things could be better. I doubt that Google really is aiming to overtake Verizon or AT&T in the short term, but rather nudge the industry, similar to how Google Fibre has done in the cities it's become available.

As more and more people flock to affordable plans now that  phones are becoming cheaper without too many compromises (i.e. Moto G, E, the Alcatel OneTouch Idol 3, etc), carriers should start to worry. Fi has done what most carriers should have done long ago - turn your cell service into an app. Instead of having to guess how much data you've used, Fi will tell you exactly where you stand in your usage, and that is pure brilliance.

While Fi may never make it to the Canadian market, ala Google Voice, I'm still very much excited to see how this affects the Telco industry as a whole. It's a very interesting time to be a phone enthusiast, that's for sure.

For the Sake of Change: an HTC Story.

The reviews are in, and the consensus is clear: the HTC One M9 is a total letdown.

The only problem is that it isn't - we are

With the One M9, HTC is doing what most other phone manufacturers should be doing - taking a single industrial design language, and refining upon it with each iteration. Starting with the One X in 2012, before the One M7 came out in 2013, HTC began to take design seriously. Gone were the days of clunky black slabs that didn't differentiate themselves from other black slabs out on the market, and in was the era of thoughtful, ergonomic, industrial phone design.

(Source: The Verge ) The 2012 HTC One X. 

(Source: The Verge ) The 2012 HTC One X. 

HTC was one of the first companies to really make an outstanding unibody phone, and despite the 2012 iteration being plastic, they took what they had learned and transformed it into the current One M series that we know today, starting with the One M7 in 2013.

(Source: The Unlockr) 2013's HTC One M7 

(Source: The Unlockr2013's HTC One M7 

While I absolutely loved, and still love, the design of the HTC One X, the Taiwanese company did the seemingly impossible, and made an even better looking device. The HTC One M7 was so lauded for it's near impeccable industrial design, that it in fact won several awards. In a time where most phone manufacturers were building devices with removable banks and expandable storage, HTC took the plunge into a single seamless, unibody experience. Despite their odd choice of capacitive buttons and a 4MP UltraPixel rear-facing camera, we loved them for what they did, especially with the front-facing BoomSound speakers.

Then came 2014's HTC One M8.

(Source: Greenbot) 2014's HTC One M8 

(Source: Greenbot2014's HTC One M8 

Once again, HTC came out swinging with the One M8. They took the design language first introduced in the M7, and further refined it, although not always for the better. The overly rounded edges and brushed metal back made for a slippery device that often left people's hands unexpectedbly. Returned, however, was the fantastic unibody anodized aluminum build that we had come to love from the M7, as well as the divisive 4MP Ultra Pixel camera, this time with a gimmicky second lens for after focusing Lyrto-esque effects. 

The M8 even partially inspired the iPhone's antenna breaks on the 6 and 6 Plus (even if Apple's weren't nearly as aesthetically pleasing)

Many felt like this phone, while a nice progression, was a bit of a letdown, especially regarding the camera. The "Black Bar", where the HTC logo resides, simply had to go in the M9, for it to really be successful.

Soon the "leaked" renders of the HTC One M9 "Hima" started to, well, leak.

(Source: Phone Arena) HTC One M9 Hima Render 

(Source: Phone ArenaHTC One M9 Hima Render 

I'll have to admit here, that when I saw this concept render, I fell in love. I so badly wanted HTC to take the design found in the One M series in a new direction, similar to that found in the Nexus 9. It seemed like the perfect evolution for the device - a refinement of an existing design language. Similar, but fresh.

About a month ago, HTC unveiled what the device would actually look like, and while I was a little let down, I was also excited.

(Source: TechRadar) 2015's HTC One M9 

(Source: TechRadar2015's HTC One M9 

HTC had listened to the users (for the most part). Gone was the rear-facing 4MP UltraPixel camera, moved to the front of the device, replaced instead by a 20MP Toshiba sensor. The edges had been slightly squared off slightly, bringing it back more in line with what the M7 had looked like. The power button no longer resided on the top of the device, but rather had been relocated to the right side - a move most phone OEMs have been making for sometime now.

The only issue most people seemed to have with the device was that the HTC Black Bar remained. They compared it to the LG G3, which has a similar sized screen in a much smaller package. What most people failed to take into account however, is that the LG G3 doesn't have front facing speakers, where as the HTC One M9 does. So the display drivers of the G3 can fit nicely into the minimal chin. On the M9, HTC needed to have the black bar in place so that the display drivers had somewhere to go. After all, with those BoomSound speakers everyone loves, where else would they have been able to place the display drivers?

Our expectations did not meet up with the reality, and I believe is why most people aren't into the M9 as much as they had hoped they would be.

(Source: TechnoBuffalo) The LG G3 

(Source: TechnoBuffaloThe LG G3 

And I get it. Yes, in three generations of the One M series, HTC didn't really change much. The devices largely look the same from just about any angle. The issue is that every critic seems to think that this is a terrible thing, when in fact, it's not. What is the point in changing the way a device looks every year if the industrial design has proven itself? It's pointless change just for the sake of it.

(Source: MobileGeeks) Left M7, Middle M8, Right M9

(Source: MobileGeeks) Left M7, Middle M8, Right M9

If Apple, a company notorious for not updating the industrial design for its hardware, can get away with it, why can't HTC? Look at how the iPhone 3GS looked identical to the previous 3G. Same goes for the 4S to the 4, and the 5S to the 5. Hell, look at their entire MacBook line. Aside from changing the body from a hardened plastic to a unibody aluminum, the design has largely been left unchanged since 2005, and that's because it works, and Apple knows it.

Even the 2014 Moto X is largely an incremental upgrade from its 2013 predecessor.

Left: 2014 Moto X, Right: 2013 Moto X (Source: Phone Arena)

Left: 2014 Moto X, Right: 2013 Moto X (Source: Phone Arena)

I think the problem isn't so much with HTC, as it is with our own expectations versus what reality has to offer. If the design works, stick with it. Don't let it get stale, but improve upon it in meaningful ways. Drastic change won't really happen overnight, from one device to the next. It takes time and patience.

Look at Samsung. From the S3-S5, they kept getting complaints about their usage of plastic, faux chrome and faux leather. What did they do? They built a small device called the Alpha, which was arguably their best looking device since the Galaxy S2. They took what they had learned from that and used it to build the S6 and S6 Edge (which I personally think are design disasters).

Before the Nexus 6 was released, almost everyone on r/android wanted a refreshed Nexus 5 - a phone with a slightly better camera and a slighty better battery. That alone proves that the main flagship line of a major phone OEM does not have to keep changing on a year to year basis. As long as there are meaningful tweaks and thoughtful refinements, people will likely be fine.

The M9 will likely continue to be a divisive device, and not the smash hit HTC wanted it to be, mostly because HTC is trying to build a timeless piece of design, and not a device that changes every year or two. While I don't agree with that idea, that a phone has to fundamentally change every two years, I understand why most critics aren't happy with the M9 - it's because they're tech nerds, like myself, and as such, want to have something new for the sake of having something new.


Note: Title image is sourced from The Verge.

Apple's Spring Forward Event

Today Apple held their 2015 Spring Forward event, where they announced a refreshed MacBook, and gave some more information regarding their new product category, the Apple Watch.

The entire event can be summed up in three points: 

  • $69 Apple TV with exclusive access to HBO Now for three months
  • A brand new 12" MacBook that weighs 2lbs, is as thick as the original iPhone, has one single USB Type-C connector, and comes in 3 colours
  • The Apple Watch's price ranges from $350-$17,000 USD ($450-$22,000 CAD)

However, below, you'll find my live stream reactions as the information came to me:

Apple's Quarterly Earnings Report is Absolutely Bonkers

Today, Apple announced their Quarterly Earnings Report, and man oh man, what they revealed was absolutely bonkers. To break it down for you, in three months, Apple managed to sell 74.5 million iPhones, 21.4 million iPads, and 5.52 million Macs, which netted them a cool $18 billion in earnings on $74.6 billion in revenue. That's billion with a B.

Let me ask you this: what the hell kind of company manages to sell $18 billion of anything in three months time? The answer to that is no one. Apple just had the single best financial quarter in, well, ever. The company outsold three of the world's leading oil & gas suppliers, Gazprom, Royal Dutch Shell, and ExxonMobil to earn this number one spot.

The Consumer Electronics market in the U.S. alone was more profitable than a global market of oil & gas.

The Consumer Electronics market in the U.S. alone was more profitable than a global market of oil & gas.

All Apple as a company had to do to achieve this amazing feat was sell 34,000 iPhones an hour, every hour for three months straight. That's approximately 9.888887 iPhones per second. The combined sales of all iOS devices in three months falls just shy of 100 million, whereas the combined sales of Macs over the last decade is only 125 million. I'm having an incredibly hard time trying to imagine what that even looks like.

What's even more incredible is that Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said that they sold their 1 billionth iOS device back in November. To put that in perspective, Google in 2013 said that it had activated more than 1 billion Android devices.

One fairly large change this Quarter is that Apple is no longer reporting iPod unit sales, but rather is lumping them into a new "other products" category that will include Apple TV, Beats products, and the soon to be released Apple Watch. It's just part of the cold reality that the once sizable aspect of Apple's overall revenue (55.55% at $5.75 billion in 2006) only brought in $410 million - less than one percent of Apple's total revenue. In comparison, the iPhone now makes up 60% of the company's total revenue, accounting for over $51 billion.

And now with the Apple releasing their Apple Watch, a new product category for the company, in April of this year, we can expect that this time next year Tim Cook announcing that Apple made even more money, which seems completely bonkers seeing as how Apple now has $178,000,000,000 in cash on hand. That's 9 zeroes, and that is enough cash to buy Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo! AND HP.

It gets crazier still. In a few years, Apple has the potential to become the world's first trillion, TRILLION, dollar company.

What $1,000,000,000,000 (Trillion) dollars looks like. 

What $1,000,000,000,000 (Trillion) dollars looks like. 

That's $1,000,000,000,000. With that, they could easily buy every Tesla Model S ever made (currently around 55,000) and turn them into employee cubicles. Or, they could just causally tuck a $100 bill into the box of every iPhone that they sell.

Almost five years ago to the day, Steve Jobs was quoted saying, "If you were to ANNUALIZE our quarterly revenue, Apple is now a $50+ billion company." That in and of itself is an impressive and proud statement to make. Five years later, Apple made $74.6 billion in one single quarter, which is just insane. This just goes to show that despite being an avid and entrenched Google and Android user myself, I can say with absolute confidence that Apple is in no way shape or form irrelevant. If anything, the Cupertino juggernaut proved otherwise today.